Thursday, February 15, 2018

Five Quick Tips

Some Quick Tips

  • Find something that your teen has done over the last week that left you with some good feeling and share it with him or her. It might be relatively small, often its the littlest recognitions that have the biggest and most lasting impact!!!

  • Make a date with your teen to get coffee, get an ice-cream, get a manicure, go to a dinner and movie-mid-week; invite them to meet you at your office and then go for dinner somewhere new and different. In short,  break the daily routine and in some way  show your interest in spending some time with your teen. Many teens have never seen or even know what it is their parents do. That is always a great eye opener to see their parents in a new way. Whatever you do, do something they would love to do, not something you would like them to do with you!

  •  Do not rule with an iron fist. This may have worked when they were younger and liked rules and regulations. Your teen needs to be a part of the rule making if you don't want them to be a rule breaker. Teens will easily resort to lying when they feel you have left no room for negotiation and conversation. Most kids are actually pretty reasonable, and when given the opportunity to have some control will rise to the occasion, and conversely if they feel too over controlled will try to take it.

  • Try to refrain from going on the "lecture circuit." I know you have a lot of wisdom and life lessons to impart, but when you see their eyes roll up into their head, you have probably lost the moment. A good speaker always reads their audience. If you are living a life filled with purpose, and model for them what it means to be a good person, then you won't need to tell them what it means to be a good person. They "get it.

  • Practice using a neutral tone of voice. Remember what your grandparents said: "It's not what you say, but how you say it!!!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

How Much Is Too Much Bedroom Time?

I have a research study for you to conduct about your teen's hours spent in their bedroom. For the next two days just strictly observe bedroom time. This includes after school time, after dinner and before bedtime. Now compare that to time spent in common rooms. If you still remember fractions, make it into a fraction:
                                         time spent in room
                                        time spent in family spaces

I bring this up because of a recent article in the New York Times. See link below. It seems the amount of time, girls especially spend in their room is proportional to the amount of anxiety they are experiencing. If only they were spending all this time doing their homework, but most likely they are obsessively on their phones, checking for likes, and reposts, and looking through a metaphorical magnifying glass at their selfies, their friends selfies, selfies that are friends of friends of friends....and judging how they measure up. Who's thinner, who's prettier, who has more friends, more likes, more reposts, and how do I measure up??? This does cause great stress and anxiety. And though girls may subject themselves to this kind of scrutiny more, boys can be just as bad. This is not emotionally healthy. It can be destructive to self-esteem, self concept, and the work of developing the all important task of identity. Read this article for great tips on how to counter this.

PS Do you know that I offer a service called "A Quick Question" Bank an hour's worth of time so that when all you need is a 15 minute coaching you call we talk!! email me at for more info!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Promise You Won't Tell Anyone??

Remember those days when you were a teen and you and your friends made "talking behind another friend's back an art form. You pinky swore, you promised complete confidentiality, and god forbid when the word got out about what you said, you could always deny, deny, deny. You were clean, no proof, no record of that conversation, someone just made it up, after all you would never talk behind your friends back!!! She's your best friend!!!

Well those were the olden days of yore. Nowadays, the gossip is not only a text away, but it's also a screen shot away from being caught. So teens will send private messages on snapchat, instagram, twitter or just write a plain old text to their "best friend." The "best friend" just covering her/his ass takes a screenshot of the "I'm only telling you this" text/message for that, just in case moment, when some drama in a friendship requires payback. And that payback is in the form of the previous screenshoted confidential, promise you won't tell X what I just said! ready for pubic consumption.

Oy!!! I have had many calls about this dilemma from parents recently. Their teen, either the gossiper caught in his/her web of talking behind someone's back, or the teen who has been gossiped about and now feels angry, hurt, humiliated, and betrayed. ( even though a few weeks previous they were also called on some "private gossip.") Honestly, the whole thing makes my head spin. What can you do? You can warn your teens to gossip in person, not on their smartphone. Let them know that even though they "trust" their friends till the ends of the earth, shit happens. When teens feel betrayed, excluded, and hurt, they want to lash out and hurt the person who hurt them. You can't stop the gossip, but you can teach your teen to watch his/her own back. A good friend is only a good friend until they aren't!!!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

So What... Who Cares?

These four words could be the most irritating words spoken by your teen. They refuse to do what you ask of them, or they flout some rule that you thought had been agreed upon, or the report card comes in the mail with less than stellar grades even though they had sworn up and down they had pulled their grades up.  You give then a consequence that you hope will mean something and teach them a lesson, so that the next time XYZ happens they will think first of the consequence that will be meted out, and not do the wrong thing. You hope and expect to hear anger and moans and groans. That at least means that you have "gotten" to them, and perhaps have taught them a lesson. But when you hear the "So what, who cares?" your well-laid plan goes off course. Your buttons get pushed, and off you go to the land of "argumentamia." Your teen has played the game well, and seemingly taken away all your power.

It may be that your teen responds in that way, because they know you, and know that the consequences you put into play are often forgotten about or reversed easily if a good argument can be made. Or perhaps they are just trying to goad you into a bigger argument, knowing how best to push your buttons. Or perhaps they really just don't care. I had a mom recently tell me of a situation with her 12 year old son whose attitude was out of control. At her wits end, she took away his X-box, expecting an instant apology and promises to change. It turns out he coulda cared less. "Fine, take it away...I don't care!" And I guess he didn't much care, cause he still hasn't asked for it back.

Remember that when you give a consequence, expecting that the consequence alone will change the behavior, is unrealistic. If it is a kid with an attitude, you have to show him what you need him to do differently. If you take away your teen's cellphone when he has an attitude towards you, and expect that he will not have an attitude with you again because he/she is worried they will lose their cellphone, you will be disappointed. Just saying..."change your attitude, and if you don't, I'll take your .....away!" will not change an attitude. When teens are in their emotional place, in the moment of frustration and anger, they can't and don't stop and think: "Oh I better tone it down if I don't want to lose my phone again." Perhaps you need to model the kind of behavior you are looking for. Maybe say: "Want to try saying that a different way, so I can hear it?' said calmly and in control! If your teen chooses the "I don't care, do what you want" thing, rather than get mad, throw out a coy smile, a shrug of the shoulders, and you are back in control.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Get A Life!!!!

A Zits Comic Home run:

Jeremy is busy writing a journal he was supposed to be keeping for the last 4 months, and is busy writing about what he thought he was doing 4 months ago. To his mom he says:
Jeremy: Mom what was I thinking about around October 13th?
Mom: That was when your van started idling funny and you were worried about that rash on your leg.
Jeremy: perfect, thanks. (Jeremy walks away, leaving mom thinking...)
Mom: Maybe I do need a job outside the home.

Does this feel familiar to you? Do you remember verbatim conversations you had with your teen months ago that seemed too important to forget, and when you remind your teen about that conversation they look at you like you are an alien from another planet,and say "Ma...Dad...Get A Life."  You might hang on every word, remember every detail from the quiz they took in French, what they got, right, what they got wrong, and then remind them of that when the next quiz comes up. Or maybe you remember a fight they had with their "so-called" best friend. You remember every horrible thing that friend said to your daughter, the sobbing on the bed, and the wailing that now she has no friends. You try to remind her of that conversation when yet another fight occurs, and yes, she looks at you like an alien saying, 'nooooo, that never happened before."

Here is the disconnect. Teens live in the moment, and what happens in the moment, stays in the moment. This is why they can let go so fast of events that to parents seem momentously important. Adults live in the future. We look at each present moment as a potential future moment, and therefore have a very hard time letting go.  And because your kids and their lives are the most important thing in your life, and you pay wayyyyy to much attention to every detail of it, you will likely feel very unfulfilled a good deal of the time. Because what's important to you about your teen and his/her life, has ceased to be important to your teen.

So if you find yourself, obsessing about every detail of your teen's life, find something else to do! Your relationship with your teen might depend on it!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

It's For Your Own Good

We are a weight-conscious culture. The good news is that we are trying to focus on being healthy, rather than on being thin, and we know that being overweight can cause a myriad of health problems. Getting our kids to understand that difference is a good goal. Communicating that message, especially to teens is a complicated one. As you know, having gone through your own bout of puberty, a teen may feel that their body is growing in ways that are completely out of their control. They see friends who grow long and lean while their body seems to do the opposite. They see friends able to eat their weight in junk food, not gaining an ounce, while a single chip sends their  weight soaring. Then to top it all off they have parents who may say things like: "Do you think you should be eating that?" Or "Haven't you had enough?' Further illustrating that they must be fat losers!

Talking about weight with your teen is really hard. Unless they are a super-confident kid and their weight causes them no issues, your teen probably feels worse and more worried than you are about their weight. It might be especially hard for them if you are a healthy eater, fitness buff, and look amazing. Knowing that your mom is "hotter" than you, or your dad is "ripped" and more fit than you can be a competition they feel they can't win.

So what do you do if you have a teen whose weight you can see is making them feel like sh*t? Maybe you see them hiding themselves in oversized clothes, or choosing to wear clothes their friends are wearing even if they are completely unflattering to their bodies. Maybe there is a tantrum every time they leave the house, with every bit of clothing on their bedroom floor, discarded because it makes them look "fat." You, standing on the other side of the door, knowing that if they just exercised more,  ate less, and ate healthier, could avoid this drama filled daily event.

Well, one thing you shouldn't do is to say those things out loud to your teen. Those kinds of lecturing comments tend to drive teens to do the opposite of what you are suggesting; eat more and eat bad!
What we can say is " I get how hard this weight thing is for you. It doesn't seem fair to see friends not have to deal with this issue at all, eating all they want, and still staying thin. It is so unfortunate that your genes don't work that way."

It's important to take the blame off your teen, you don't want to put them on the defensive. Give them an opportunity to give voice to their real feelings about this issue. Many kids who have a weight problem are uncomfortable doing exercise in public. They feel like people are looking at them and judging their weight, their ability. Maybe their face turns bright red when they exert themselves and they are embarrassed about that. (I sometimes love doing exercise programs on demand on my TV in the privacy of my own home!)Try asking them about that. "Tell me some things you don't like about exercising, and let's see what we can figure out would work for you" rather than, "if you just exercised more, you would feel better about yourself."

Trust me, no teen wants to have a weight issue. But it feels so hard for them to turn it around. Obviously, make sure you have healthy choices in your home. Having tubs of ice cream in the freezer, bottles of soda or fruit juice, chips and snacks, and cookies are just too tempting.

This is a tricky and emotionally laden issue for parents to navigate with their teens. They feel your judgement and disappointment, and their own self-consciousness with their peers. It's a double whammy. Help them to understand and appreciate their own uniqueness and help them to develop strategies that work for them.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

She Says....He Says...The Dance of Sexual Consent

When I was an older teen and young adult, I engaged in consensual sex with men. OK don't be shocked I haven't always been 66!!! I didn't always like it, I didn't always want to, and it didn't always feel good. But I remember feeling a lot of the time that I just didn't know how to get myself out of a situation I had gotten myself into.  I didn't seem very good at communicating what I wanted, and the men didn't seem very good at picking up my sometimes less than direct cues. Truth be told, I may at times have felt that it was just easier to get it over with and be on my way. At other times, I really liked the guy and in my distorted thinking felt that if I went along with it, maybe he would become my boyfriend. Never ever do I remember the guy hesitating at all... all he wanted was the sex! He was totally and completely clear about that!

Times haven't really changed that much when it comes to women and men and sex. Lord knows the news has been chock full of stories, with all the lurid details,  of sexual encounters women felt a loss of control to stop. I don't want to rehash those stories here. It is not the stories that are important, it is how best we can teach our teen girls to be direct and to take care of themselves, and to teach our teen boys to understand and respect, the sometimes not so direct messages the girls they are sexually engaging with are giving them. Teen boys are horny!!!! They do not have a lot of motivation to make sure that the girl they are with is 100% on board. Never mind when there is alcohol or drugs involved.

Here are some common phrases that woman say to men to convey a desire to stop the sex train from leaving the station. Below them, are the phrases men use to convince the woman the train is going to leave the station!

Imagine if you will, a guy and gal in the throes of foreplay. They both seem into it. The gal may just be enjoying the cuddling, the kissing and the gentle body caresses. The guy is like..ok that was fun, lets get on with the main event.

The gal, happy with just the previews may say things like this:

"Oh, it's late....I have to get home" Subtext: "I don't want to go any further, this is getting out of control.
" Oh I have my period." Subtext I don't want to have sex!!!
" This is going to fast for me"  Subtext: This feels scary and I want to stop
"I'm not ready to do this." Subtext: I don't want to hook up with you!"
" Stop!!! I don't want too do this anymore. Subtext: Stop, NO! Get Off Me!!!

The guy, sensing a retreat and not wanting to give up this chance for sex replies in kind to the above:
" Oh don't worry, I promise I'll get you home on time!"
"Oh I don't mind, I love doing it when girls have their periods!!
"Oh , but I like you so much, we're just getting close, or "OK, let's just chill for a while(but then starts right up again)
" Don't be a tease!!! You started it...You've been all over me for like an can't tell me you don't want to have sex!!

I'm sure that this list could be much longer and if you have anything to add please put it in the comment section!

Here is the thing. We can't just leave the sex thing to take care of itself. The teen years set a foundation for how these young sexually active people will feel about sexual intimacy, as they move into young adulthood.  Will sex become something that is mutually enjoyable, or is it just a one sided exercise in taking care of yourself?  We need to teach our teens how to read the language of sexual consent, so that when they are adults they will be fully versed!

I know this is a hard blog to read. It is not easy thinking of your teen as a sexual being, but they are! They are engaging in "sexual firsts" that will set the stage for all the sexual seconds, thirds, and more as they move into adulthood. We teach them about empathy and kindness and reciprocity, but rarely in the context of sexual intimacy!! Use the news stories for jumping off discussions. Don't linger on the specifics, go right to "I get you might be in a sexual situation like this, and I want to make sure you understand how to either take care of yourself so that you never feel pressured to do more than you're comfortable with, if you're the parent of a girl, or for the parent of a boy, "I want to make sure that you understand that not all girls have the confidence yet to be direct and to clearly say no. I want you to understand how girls think, and that what they say will give you very clear cues about how far they are willing to go." You are teaching your teens to be responsible and responsive sexual partners!!! Now get on that sex train!!!